James warned his readers about living in a future they didn’t have yet. “…you do not even know what tomorrow will bring.” This was not advice against making thoughtful plans. However, James also knew that there is the present that demands our attention today. So he warned, “Anyone who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.” James 4:13-17.
What we make time for in our lives and how we live each day are litmus papers that describe what we value and consider important.
When I was a teenager I had friends in Little Rock whose house was a wreck. Piles of clean clothes lay around the living room. Untidiness everywhere. Clean underwear draped over the sofa. Other things were more important to them than keeping a clean house.
The truth is, unless we are hindered by some illness or limitation, we DO the things we think are important or most preferred. Most of the time, we will not be deterred from those important things by anyone: preacher, teacher, political leader, nor others. We may be temporarily guilted into doing something, but when the pangs of guilt finally wear off, we snap back to our old preferences.
The preference list is not just a like list, such as preferring the beach over the mountains. It is also governed by our willingness to work hard versus being governed by inertia. “I’d really like to do this or that, but I don’t want to get up earlier.”
It can also be governed by the lowest common denominator, that is, the thing that requires the least effort or discomfort or planning. “I really should mow the lawn, but I want to nap a little more or prefer the A/C to the heat outdoors.”
Jesus knows the laziness of the human heart and says that we cannot be his disciple while looking over our shoulders at something we’d prefer to do. Or while delaying what we should be doing while doing the thing that screams for our attention. See Luke 9:57-62.
Sometimes we change our minds and our behaviors on the basis of a changed priority list or growth in maturity. And the changes can be as minor as showing up on time and as major as abandoning a life of sin. We call that change repentance, conversion, and growth.
It boils down to what we intend to do.